Nightingale Village is once again being recognized for human-centred, environmentally conscious design after earning the Industry Leader accolade in the Sustainable Places category at the 21st Victorian Premier’s Sustainability Awards. Designed by six different architecture practices – Architecture Architecture, Austin Maynard Architects, Breathe, Clare Cousins Architects, Hayball, and Kennedy Nolan – the six buildings constructed […] More
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The Parramatta Aquatic Centre, designed by Grimshaw, Andrew Burges Architects and McGregor Coxall opened to the public on 25 September. The 40,000 square metre facility contains a 50-metre, 10-lane heated outdoor pool encircled by a perimeter ring, a 25-metre, 8-lane indoor pool, a learn-to-swim indoor pool, an indoor splash play area, as well as a […] More
Design writer and co-founder of Good Habitat and the Australian Design Unit, Heidi Dokulil has released a new book that investigates the contentious architectural genre of brutalism in Sydney, its migration from Europe to Australia, and its uncertain future.
Sydney Brutalism was inspired by the controversy surrounding the sale and threatened demolition of the Sirius building in Millers Point. Heidi observed that the movement to preserve the building extended beyond the architectural profession and became a topic of conversation in the wider public sphere. Sirius was saved from the wrecking ball but that didn’t end the conversation. The renewed attention revived an interest in Sydney’s forgotten brutalist buildings, resulting in more than ten buildings across Australia being added to state and local heritage lists in the past five years.
The book delves into a range of topics including the Sirius battle, the historical and international influences of the genre, the adaptive reuse of brut buildings and the resurgence of brutalist influence in contemporary culture. It reflects on brutalist forms of architecture that have vanished, while also shining a spotlight on the remaining structures that still stand today.
Featuring interviews with architects such as Glenn Harper, John James, Michael Dysart, Penelope Seidler, Andrew Andersons, Dante Bini, Angelo Candalepas and Tao Gofers, the book discusses the importance of brutalism in a historical context, as well as brutalism’s relevance in the present.
Binishell, designed by Dante Bini, Ashbury Public School, Ashfield, 1977, image courtesy of Dante Bini, page 122 of Sydney Brutalism. Image:
It was in researching the Government Architects Branch of the NSW Department of Works that Heidi identified the pioneering force behind Sydney’s experimentation in off-form concrete, with many brutalist buildings of the 1960s and ‘70s created under their purview.
“The department was one of the largest architecture studios in the southern hemisphere at one point, which is quite phenomenal. It was a highly sought-after place for architects to work. It offered incredible opportunities because they needed new buildings, they were open to experimental forms of architecture and they were looking internationally to bring architects over to Australia,” Heidi said.
“The department was responsible for bringing Dante Bini over to Australia. He was singled out as someone who could transform schools across NSW. It was really quite fascinating to see the big thinking and risk-taking that was happening during that time, there was an openness to ideas and innovation, and a willingness to push boundaries.”
Polish War Memorial Chapel in Marayong, designed by Michael Dysart and Associates, image courtesy of Michael Dysart, page 93 of Sydney Brutalism. Image:
The department’s eagerness to experiment and make a name for Sydney is exemplified by a story shared by Michael Dysart in the book about designing the 1975 UTS Tower. He recounts having to convince the heads of the department to allow him to incorporate a novel method of engineering. To persuade them, he gathered them into a car and drove two hours southwest of Sydney to show them a bridge that demonstrated the engineering.
Despite a willingness in the ‘60s and ’70s to push the envelope of architectural experimentation, a shift in perceptions slowly began to emerge. A reluctance to heritage list many of the city’s brutalist forms resulted in 20 buildings being either demolished or defaced beyond recognition, since the 1990s.
The interior of the Philip Room in the Sirius building, designed by Tao Gofers and Penny Rosier, page 166 of Sydney Brutalism. Image:
“Sirius really alerted the general public to the vulnerability of buildings and reminded people just how at the whim of politics they are,” Heidi said. “It has really reminded people of the need to protect and preserve structures to ensure that we have a diversity of buildings that represent the stories and history of place.
“By heritage-listing and protecting these buildings we’re acknowledging them and we’re giving them the status that Victorian colonial architecture has. I remember talking to Sam Marshall [architect] about this and he said ‘If we don’t protect them, then all we have under protection is colonial architecture and that’s only one piece of the puzzle.’”
Kuring-gai College in Lindfield, designed by David Turner at the NSW Government Architect’s Branch, page 53 of Sydney Brutalism. Image:
Lauded in the book as promising examples of adaptive reuse are the Lindfield Learning Village, formerly the Kuring-gai UTS University Campus, refurbished by Lacoste and Stevenson Architects and Designinc in 2019; the redevelopment of the Gate Nine Arrival Precinct at the University of NSW Kensington Campus completed by Lahzimmo Architects and Aspect Studios in 2019; and the former Newcastle council chambers, reincarnated as a five-star hotel called Crystalbrook Kingsley, completed by EJE Architecture and Suede Interior Design in 2021.
“The Lindfield Learning Village is a fantastic example of brut architecture being transformed into something that meets contemporary standards, and that building is actually heritage-listed, so they had a tricky framework to work within,” Heidi said.
Indigo Slam, designed by Smart Design Studio, page 204 of Sydney Brutalism. Image:
The aesthetics of the Brutalist movement continues to play a role in the diverse architectural landscape of Sydney, which Heidi said is demonstrated in projects such as Polly Harbison’s Pearl Beach House, Candelepas and Associates’ Punchbowl Mosque and Smart Design Studio’s Indigo Slam.
While the origins of sculpted and expressive concrete architecture in Australia may have begun with emigre architects, Heidi still holds the belief that brutalism downunder is unlike brutalism anywhere else in the world and that really comes down to Australia’s idiosyncratic landscape. The colours and textures of native bushland combined with the rawness of concrete results in a contextual language that she says is entirely unique. Michael Dysart expresses similar sentiments in the book when he states “all is unified by the use of unpainted concrete which fits in well with the olive green of the surrounding bush.”
Sydney Brutalism offers a tour through time, unveiling the brutalist forms that have endured and those that have not, while also posing the question – what kind of cities would we have without them? The book will hit the shelves on Friday, 1 December. To purchase a copy or find out more, visit the UNSW Press website. More
The Seam outdoor barstool, designed by Adam Cornish, has a shell that is formed from a single piece of aluminium, creating a “seam” along its spine. The collection includes chairs, barstools and various tables, all with UV-stable powder- coat finishes. Visit website
Create traditional or contemporary, simple or intricate geometric designs using the Tessellated Tile Factory’s vitrified porcelain tile system. Image: Supplied
Create traditional or contemporary, simple or intricate geometric designs using Tessellated Tile Factory’s vitrified porcelain tile system. Tessellated tiles offer a bespoke outdoor flooring solution, with loose tiles of various sizes, colours and shapes to choose from. Visit website
Frame armchair by Paolo Lenti. Image: Supplied
Paola Lenti’s elegantly shaped Frame outdoor armchair pairs a highly durable rope braid textile with a lightweight aluminium frame. Frame is available in multiple configurations and in a selection of the brand’s signature upholstery fabrics. Visit website
The new range of Austral Bricks features a colour palette inspired by neutral tones. Image: Supplied
Crafted using state-of-the-art making techniques, Austral Bricks’ new Pottery Blend range features a colour palette inspired by the tonal profiles of Roman clay sculptures. Earthy and distinctive, the collection will help to define enduring architectural spaces. Visit website
Luxembourg outdoor furniture
Luxembourg outdoor furniture by Fermob. Image: Supplied
Originally designed in 1923 for the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris, this outdoor furniture range by Fermob is synonymous with French elegance. Made of durable yet lightweight aluminium, the stackable collection offers timeless design appeal and versatility. Visit website
Plungie pre-cast pools
Pre-cast pools by Plungie. Image: Supplied
The Plungie pool is a monolithic precast concrete swimming pool. Available in four sizes, including round and rectangular models, Plungie pools can be installed in-ground, semi-recessed or above-ground, providing versatility in the design of an outdoor space. Visit website
Escea outdoor fireplace
The Escea outdoor fireplace is ideal for cooler nights. Image: Supplied
Escea’s EW5000 is an outdoor wood-burning fireplace that you can cook on, as well as bask in front of – providing seamless indoor- outdoor flow. The EW5000 outdoor fire can be installed either with a stainless steel frame or without, for a more rustic look. Visit website More
A 14-metre-tall inflatable ball has been newly unveiled in the garden of the National Gallery of Victoria.
Designed by Nic Brunsdon and Eness, This is air, is the 2023 edition of the NGV’s annual architecture commission, which challenges architect-led teams to create a site-specific temporary installation.
The design competition for the 2023 commission asked entrants to consider the themes of the NGV Triennial: Magic, Matter and Memory.
Brunsdon’s winning entry responds conceptually to “matter” by capturing one of the most universal and primal elements on Earth: air.
2023 NGV Architecture Commission, This is air, by Nic Brunsdon and Eness. Image:
The installation uses air as a building material and gives form to the invisible.
“Air is a universal common link that is [among] the defining features of life,” Brunsdon said. “The air we breathe, this thing that connects us. It can give us life, but it can also harm us.”
Conceived at the tail-end of a pandemic respiratory virus, the concept is, in part, a distillation of the collective anxiety about invisible dangers in the air.
“In a very broad sense, it was trying to find something [that] spoke of the human condition and made the invisible visible,” Brunsdon said.
The installation comprises an inner sphere and an outer sphere made from recycled PVC and a water ballast to keep it in place. Brunsdon explained it as three states. A fully inflated “hold” state, an exhalation state, and an inhalation state.
“It’s a machine for representing what is currently in place. Capturing, holding and redistributing the air in that place at that time,” he said.
2023 NGV Architecture Commission, This is air, by Nic Brunsdon and Eness. Image:
The sphere also references the proposed The Fox: NGV Contemporary designed by a team led by Angelo Candalepas and Associates. “The size is comparable to the giant oculus that’s being carved into the main hall.”
Ewan McEoin, senior curator of contemporary art, design and architecture at NGV, said, “Air can be understood as part of our global economic, social and ecological realities. And yet, the quality of air we breathe varies depending on where and how we live. Air is universal, yet clean air is not.”
“This magnificent public artwork will, quite literally, breathe life and creativity into the NGV Garden and will delight and inspire people of all ages,” said Colin Brooks, Victorian minister for creative industries.
This is air will be on display at NGV International until June 2024. More
The proposed demolition of North Melbourne’s RMIT Village, a 12-storey student housing complex constructed just five years ago, has been recommended for approval, with plans for a new 19-storey student accommodation building to be constructed on the site instead.
On Tuesday 21 November, the City of Melbourne’s Future Melbourne Committee voted in favour of the $264 million knockdown and rebuild of 5-17 Flemington Road. However, councillors expressed reservation about the environmental impacts of “disposable” buildings.
The existing mock-Tudor-style building on site was retrofitted with the addition of upper levels in 2018. The application to demolish and rebuild on the site was submitted by Urban Planning Collective (UPCo) on behalf of the site’s owner Centurion Australia Investments in 2022, which went before the Melbourne Design Review Panel in March 2023 and was subsequently amended in August 2023 to ensure the building envelope no longer cast a shadow on the nearby Bedford Street Reserve and responded better to the surrounding context.
Architectus and Metier 3 have been appointed the design of the project with the amended development application proposing student housing in a 19 storey building facing Bedford Street (stage one) and build-to-rent apartments across two buildings of 19 to 22 storeys facing Flemington Road and Blackwood Street (stage two), as well as retail offerings, a medical centre and a through block link.
Andrea Zohar presented at the meeting on behalf of the permit applicant. “The site is currently looking pretty tired, grossly underutilized with a commercial carpark and dated student housing at a time when many international students are returning to Melbourne,” Zohar said.
“The proposal seeks to introduce a diversity of housing with purpose built student accommodation and a build-to-rent apartment scheme. The site offers an excellent location to public transport, including the new Arden Railway Station. It’s close to the CBD and many tertiary institutions. The housing offered in this project will contribute to the Victorian Government’s Housing Statement, recently released. Everything here supports a redevelopment opportunity in a strategic sense.
“The project also offers a net community benefit in its contribution to the immediate public realm by way of a 24/7 available through block link. This link will open up a currently uninviting laneway environment, activate it with passive surveillance and foot traffic.”
When questioned by Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece about whether alternatives for retrofitting or adaptive reuse had been taken into consideration, Zohar responded saying “all aspects of the redevelopment scheme for the site were considered,” and added that the “site was not fully redeveloped for the student housing that short while ago. It was retrofitted… it is not a newly built student accommodation that is being removed.”
Reece said while the project is compliant with planning codes and offers positive contributions to the area, demolishing a building in its infancy is a cause for concern.
“There is one aspect, which I do think is concerning and it does go to the demolition of what is a quite recently constructed new built form. In the midst of a climate emergency, in the midst of Australia stepping up its efforts to cut emissions, we are being asked to approve the demolition of a large 12-storey building that was constructed only five years ago. Yes, that construction did involve a new built form on top of the old tudor-style hotel, so there was some adaptive reuse there, but it’s still a very large 12-storey structure, which we’re now being asked, only five years later, to approve the demolition of,” he said.
“The truth is we cannot let Melbourne become a city of disposable buildings, a city where new buildings are built on the cheap to be knocked down every twenty years or so. We’ll end up with a throwaway city of junk buildings as well as the unacceptable environmental cost that comes with that.”
Despite his concerns regarding the “wastefulness” of the demolition, Reece said the project would see a low-grade building being replaced by a better quality built form with positive social benefits.
“As a result of going through the design review process we’ve seen improved architectural design of the development. I think there’s much improved solid architectural language in the design that is more fine grain detail, which is much more in keeping with the urban context of North Melbourne. The new through block link, I think that’s a really positive aspect of this development. There is a lot of people who are going to be living in this area… creating things like new through block links to allow more permeability through this area, greater pedestrian flow is a really positive thing,” he said.
“A low-grade building is being replaced with a much better one that has gone through a Melbourne Design Review Panel Process and the new building is not only better from an architectural perspective, it will also stand for many decades to come. We hope and expect. So, with those reservations outed, the proposed building does meet the planning controls and so the correct decision for us this evening is that a permit should be issued but please let the word go forth that the era of disposable buildings in Melbourne is well and truly over.”
City of Melbourne councillors resolved unanimously to advise the Department of Transport and Planning the council would not object to the planning application. More
Eight thousand tennis balls will line the walls of the National Gallery of Victoria in a special, participatory exhibition by British artist David Shrigley, inviting visitors to swap their pre-loved tennis balls for fresh ones. Shrigley’s Melbourne Tennis Ball Exchange installation will make its Australian debut in January 2024 as part of the free, late-night […] More
Artek has teamed up with research-based design studio Formafantasma to re-evaluate its rigorous wood selection standards and develop a more environmentally friendly furniture range made from wild Birch Trees.
Stool 60 Villi will be the first piece to drop as part of the wild birch range, in celebration of 2023 being the 90th anniversary of Stool 60, designed by Alvar Aalto and manufactured in Finland.
Stool 60 Villi will be the first piece to be released as part of the wild birch range, in celebration of 2023 being the 90th anniversary of Stool 60, designed by Alvar Aalto. Image: Supplied
Prior to the introduction of the new range, Artek prioritized using regularly grained wood, which does not display any natural wood markings or characteristics. Each piece underwent a strict selection criteria process, with the production of furniture based on market expectations for aesthetic consistency and perfection.
Stool 60 Villi will instead celebrate individuality and the beauty of natural imperfections of raw wood materials. The new collection will enable more of the tree to be used, rather than end up as waste. Wood knots, insect trails, colour fluctuations and a darker wood core will be visible on the stool’s legs, with all of these features contributing to the one-of-a-kind quality of the range.
Wood knots, insect trails, colour fluctuations and a darker wood core will be visible on Stool 60 Villi’s legs. Image: Supplied
The objectives behind the new range, according to Artek, include “promoting a more responsible usage of raw materials in the manufacturing of products,” to “instigate a new aesthetics of sustainability,” and to “provide insights into the changing conditions of Finnish forests in the light of industrialization and climate change.”
The process of making Stool 60. Image: Supplied
A spokesperson for FormaFantasma said to obtain the level of flawlessness that Artek achieved in its previous furniture ranges, only a small percentage of the birch tree could actually be used, despite the quality of wood being the same.
“It is important to mention that there are also marks in the wood left by insects that have now expanded into Finnish forests because of climate change. So, for us, accepting those flaws in production also means not neglecting what is actually happening in the world.
“The changes we are trying to achieve with Artek are also a way to make the culture of the forest become the culture of the company. This means, for instance, making these shifts in the quality control of the wood and accepting certain things that are considered flaws. First of all, this will mean that you will need fewer trees to produce the objects. And second of all, wood that in the past would probably have ended up producing lower-quality products – such as paper pulp – is now applied to something much more durable. Consequently, this will also mean less CO₂ emissions because the CO₂ will remain in objects for longer.
“All these changes we’re talking about are rather invisible in the product. They are definitely visible in the production, and in the end they will also be visible in some details of the product. But I think that the most interesting changes you can do now, in architecture and design, are rather invisible. It’s behind the scenes where you can do the most.”
Artek has announced Stool 60 Villi will be apart of their permanent collection in 2024, with the collection available exclusively in Australia at Anibou. More